Will a woman be the 9th UN secretary-general?

Five female and five male candidates are running for the position of next UN secretary-general in the fourth round of voting.

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

President Obama addresses the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The fourth round of the United Nations secretary-general elections will be held today, in which women candidates are favourites to win.

There are five women candidates out of a total of ten and the most of them are from Eastern Europe.

The UN has five regional groups, and until now no secretaries-general have been elected from Eastern Europe.

According to the UN Charter secretaries-general shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

The candidate has to receive two thirds of the vote in the General Assembly (193 members) and must not be vetoed by the five permanent members (US, UK, France, Russia and China) of the Security Council.

They are appointed for five years terms and there is no rule preventing them from being appointed again.

However, according to unwritten rules, none of the secretaries-general have managed to hold a third term in office. One case in point is that of Austrian official Kurt Waldheim, who sought to run for a third term which and was vetoed by China. Egyptian Boutros Boutros Ghali was also vetoed by the US when he ran for a second term.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at a news conference during an official visit to Colombo, Sri Lanka, September 2, 2016. (Reuters)

Current incumbent Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that it is "high time" for a female UN secretary-general to be appointed, stating that after seven decades and eight male leaders, the time is right for a woman to take the top job.

Female candidates

The five female candidates running for the job are Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica), Natalia Gherman (Moldova), and Susana Malcorra (Argentina).

Irina Bokova

UN Secretary General candidate Irina Bokova speaks in the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber, April 12, 2016. (AP Archive)

The Bulgarian diplomat is the twice-elected director-general of UNESCO and speaks four of the six official languages of the UN.

She also takes a close interest in climate change, which has been one of the most important topics for the UN in 2016.

Bokova also emphasises the importance of dialogue with multiple stakeholders and "a new multilateralism for the 21st century."

She calls for dialogue among governments, civil society, the private sector and academia, to forge new partnerships for innovative action.

Helen Clark

Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and senior United Nations official, speaks during an interview in New York, April 4, 2016. (AP Archive)

Clark is a former premier of New Zealand and the first woman to lead the UN Development Programme. She has been head of the UNDP since 2009.

She has engaged widely in policy development and advocacy across the international, economic, social and cultural spheres.

Clark has praised the "opening up of the [secretary-general selection] process," which has enabled candidates to engage with UN member states and civil society.

Christiana Figueres

United Nations Climate Chief Christiana Figueres looks on during a press conference ahead of the UN Climate Conference in France, November 28, 2015. (AP Archive)

Sixty-year-old veteran Costa Rican diplomat Figueres has served 35 years involved in high level national and international policy formation and multilateral negotiations.

She says there is a need for a "new model of collaborative diplomacy," which stresses the participation of citizens as one of the necessary "conditions for a sustained peace."

She supports "dynamic multilateralism" intended to blend "the best of governmental and non-governmental" collaboration.

Natalia Gherman

Natalia Gherman addresses the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit, September 26, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Archive)

Moldovan politician Gherman served her country as minister of foreign affairs and European integration and deputy prime minister from 2013 to 2016.

She says the UN should be understood and better known, especially by young people. She also says she will pursue sustainable development goals by engaging "the private sector and civil society."

Susana Malcorra

Susana Malcorra speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, March 30, 2016. (AP Archive)

Malcorra is the current Foreign Minister of Argentina and is focusing her campaign on humanitarian relief and responding to the current unprecedented number of refugees throughout the globe.

"While the Organization must continue to be responsive to these needs, it must become more proactive, and less reactive, through ensuring that its responses and actions build resilience as a preventative strategy," she said in an interview with Time.

Male Candidates

The five male candidates running for the position of secretary-general are Antonio Guterres, Vuk Jeremic, Srgjan Kerim, Miroslav Lajcak, and Danilo Turk.

Antonio Guterres

Candidate for the position of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres delivers his remarks in the United Nations Trusteeship Council Chamber, April 12, 2016. (AP Archive)

Guterres served seven years as prime minister of Portugal and was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.

Guterres also cited the importance of the role of civil society and the private sector role between UN member states.

Vuk Jeremic

UN Secretary General candidate Vuk Jeremic speaks during a high-level meeting on countering nuclear terrorism during the 67th UN General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, September 28, 2012. (AP Archive)

Former Serbian Foreign Minister Jeremic served as President of the UN General Assembly between 2012 and 2013.

He helped bring about a solution for the dispute between Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

During his time in office many Serbian war criminals were arrested by Serbian authorities and extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

Jeremic says civil society is the "crucial partner" in achieving sustainable goals.

Srgjan Kerim

Former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim listens to questions from UN General Assembly members about his candidacy for UN secretary general, April 14, 2016, at the UN headquarters in New York. (AP Archive)

Former Macedonian foreign minister Kerim is a defender of human rights. He served as President of the UN General Assembly between 2007 and 2008.

He focuses on security, migration and democratic governance and reform of the UN.

Kerim cites the role of civil society in raising awareness of climate change. He has committed to make the UN "more understandable and accessible and to bring it closer to Member States and the global public."

Miroslav Lajcak

Miroslav Lajcak listens to questions from UN members about his candidacy for the position of UN secretary-general, June 7, 2016 at the UN headquarters. (AP Archive)

Lajcak is the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia.

He believes the UN must always adapt to new realities and agendas. He says the organisation's management must be accountable and ethical standards of its staff must be ensured.  

Specifically, he believes a zero-tolerance policy is needed over sexual exploitation and assault by the UN's peacekeepers for people to maintain trust in the body.

Danilo Turk

In this Dec. 2, 2012 file photo, outgoing Slovenia's president Danilo Turk talks to the media in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (AP Archive)

Slovenian diplomat Turk is a professor of international law and a human rights expert. He was the first Slovenian ambassador to the United Nations, from 1992 to 2000.

From 2000 to 2005, he was assistant secretary general for political affairs under the body’s 7th secretary general, Kofi Annan. He also served as the president of Slovenia from 2007 to 2012.

Turk believes the organisation’s recruitment system needs to be changed so that it can respond more effectively and quickly to its needs in the field.



TRTWorld and agencies